Regulator is responding to criminal investigations of improper contact

By Jeff McDonald
Feb. 19, 2015 – 4:56 p.m.

The California Public Utilities Commission has hired one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state to respond to investigations of improper contact between regulators and the utility companies they oversee.

San Francisco lawyer Raymond Marshall of the global law firm Sheppard Mullin is advising commission officials in their discussions with state and federal agents, who are conducting separate public-corruption investigations into commission practices.

Marshall, who runs the white-collar crime division of the firm’s Bay Area office, is leading a team of more than six people representing the commission, including Pamela Naughton of the firm’s San Diego office.

The agreement between the commission and Sheppard Mullin, obtained by U-T San Diego under the California Public Records Act, shows the state is paying Marshall $882 per hour — a discount from his standard hourly rate of $993.

Naughton is billing a discounted hourly rate of $764. The discounted rate for San Francisco-based law partner Krystal Bowen is $764, and the cost of various assistants ranges between $278 and $543 per hour.

The agreement, signed in late November, is capped at $49,000. It was not immediately clear on Thursday whether commission officials have approved any increases in the original amount.

According to the retainer, which runs through June, Sheppard Mullin will provide “legal assistance and advice with document privilege review and production in response to subpoenas and search warrants.”

The firm also will “review and understand CPUC procedures in order to present a knowledgeable defense,” in addition to assisting with public relations.

The contract calls for Sheppard Mullin to represent the commission in criminal, civil and administrative proceedings and investigations regarding improper contacts between 2009 and 2014, when former President Michael Peevey resigned his seat.

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